Here are this year’s significant anniversaries in the watch industry and limited-edition watches to mark the occasions
Horology's significant anniversaries
Urwerk is 20 If the mention of Urwerk still conjures up the idea of an independent upstart, it may be time for a recalibration. Believe it or not, it’s been two decades since the brand first burst onto the scene with the UR-101 and Ur-102—it remains independent but it’s definitely come into its own. Urwerk’s various interpretations of the wandering hour (which it dubs the satellite complication) remains central to the brand but it has expanded its offerings in many areas. In 2015, for instance, the brand offered its first watch targeted at ladies with the UR-106 Lotus, a ultra-feminine watch topped off with a moonphase indicator.
Urwerk is marking its 20th anniversary with the UR-T8, a hulking beast over 60mm long and 48mm wide. The brand calls the UR-T8 its “first transformable watch”, given its Reverso-esque ability of flipping over to present its case back to ostensibly protect its crystal and dial. The watch’s ability to morph into a shield-like bracelet makes for an interesting case (pun not intended) that shows a variation of the textured surface first seen in the UR-105 T-rex.
Longines celebrates 185 years of watchmaking A watchmaker with Longines’s history will inevitably have some significant anniversaries coincide with each other. Indeed, 2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the brand’s Flagship collection, as well as the 90th anniversary of the Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch that accompanied Charles Lindbergh on the first ever nonstop solo transatlantic flight. This year also happens to be the 185th year of the brand’s founding.
To mark its anniversary, Longines has looked through its archives and compiled a list of anecdotes from throughout its history on the brand’s microsite. A snippet detailing one significant event is revealed every day. These stories cover everything from corporate matters to individual triumph. Clearly, Longines isn’t just an old watchmaker, but one that has witnessed many significant events in human history. It’s unlikely that it will finish the year off without major celebrations for its anniversary. Until more details emerge, these daily titbits will have to do.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut hits 20 Patek Philippe marked the Aquanaut’s 20th birthday with two watches. The first is the Aquanaut Ref 5168G, which bears several firsts for the collection. It’s the first white gold member of the collection. At 42mm, this is also the largest Aquanaut to date, albeit with proportions that remain true to the line. Finally, its dial features a new graduated shade of blue that darkens towards black at the edges. The Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G “Patek Philippe Advanced Research” (left) also celebrates the line’s 20 years. Like its Advanced Research predecessors, this watch introduces Patek’s newly developed innovations, one of which is the time-zone setting device based on flexible mechanisms—it doesn’t just reduce the number of parts but also eliminates factors like friction and mechanical play for greater reliability. This development is prominently displayed through the dial cut-out. Secondly, the Spiromax balance spring—a silicon hairspring with a new geometry that allows the movement to be adjusted to an astonishing -1/+2 seconds of accuracy.
Half a century of the Rolex Sea-dweller The Sea-dweller introduced in 1967 turns 50 this year and Rolex has released the latest iteration of the watch to coincide with this anniversary. The original SeaDweller is perhaps best remembered for introducing the helium escape valve that Rolex had developed and patented. Before this, divers undergoing saturation diving—a relatively new and advanced technique at that time—would sometimes see their watches’ crystals pop right out of their cases during decompression. The helium escape valve solved this problem by allowing the watch to “decompress” safely without compromising its waterproofness. The rest, as they say, is history.
The new Sea-dweller retains the iconic design of the original but sports several changes. For a start, its case has been significantly upsized from 40mm to 43mm. Accompanying this change are subtle tweaks to the watch’s proportions—the bezel, bracelet, and clasp have all been beefed up. The Cyclops lens, previously limited to just the Submariner within Rolex’s dive watch line-up, has also been fitted onto the new Sea-dweller for the first time. Finally, the new calibre 3235 first introduced in 2016 has been fitted in the watch, making this its first appearance in a Rolex Professional model.
The Centenary of Cartier’s Tank First introduced in 1917, the Cartier Tank was so named because its design evoked the top view of a tank—a battlefield novelty barely a few years old then. The design codes that defined this watch were established from the get-go. Note the parallel bars that define the flanks of the case and double as its lugs, which resemble a tank’s treads, and the beaded/faceted crown set with a sapphire cabochon. Meanwhile, the dial’s signatures are its Roman numeral indexes, as well as the rectangular railway track chapter ring.
So, it was already widely known that 2017 is the centennial anniversary of the Tank. Surprisingly, the manufacture made no mention at SIHH this January. As it turned out, Cartier had long planned for the Tank to have its own party, free from any other distractions that may dilute the significance of the occasion. To celebrate the milestone, Cartier unveils novelties for four of these lines with the Tank Cintrée Skeleton (left) watch as the flagship. The timepiece is longer and narrower than usual, and comes curved to fit the wrist better. The little surprise here lies in the skeletonised movement: it is curved like the case, and shows off a little watchmaking savoir faire by Cartier.
Omega’s trinity turns 60 Within Omega’s annals, 1957 stands out especially for being the year the brand introduced three important timepieces: The Seamaster, Speedmaster (above), and Railmaster. Each a purpose-built tool watch designed for a specific application, the three models have taken somewhat divergent paths over the last six decades in terms of their development and popularity. Omega brings them back together this year by releasing a trio of limited-edition remakes of the originals— the 1957 Trilogy Limited Edition.
To ensure that the new watches are faithful recreations of the originals, Omega used digital scanning technology to digitise their dimensions before modernising the watches’ designs. The “aged” Super-luminova used on the dials and hands, for example, replaces the originals’ radium paint. Omega’s attention to detail is admirable here; note how the brand logo varies among the three watches, in a nod to the variations produced by different dial suppliers in the past. Six decades of Piaget’s Altiplano One of Piaget’s calling cards is its expertise in creating ultra-thin dress watches. These diminutive and seemingly simple timepieces demand rigour in movement design and production, since the lack of space requires miniaturisation and tighter tolerances for every component. The ultra-thin Piaget Altiplano turns 60 this year with the marque commemorating the anniversary with several watches.
Needless to say, the anniversary models—essentially all the Altiplano watches this year—draw their design inspiration from the originals. Among them are two representative models, both in blue, which stand out for the crosshair design printed on their dials just like the original. The larger model houses the self-winding 1200P movement and is sized at 43mm, while the smaller 38mm model uses the manual-wound 430P calibre.